High-intensity exercise can benefit across any age group

What is high-intensity exercise?

High-intensity exercise is any activity or exercise that gets your heart rate to at least 80% of your maximum beats per minute. In simpler terms, if an activity gets you so out of breath that you cannot talk or sing while doing it, it most likely is high intensity. Any activity, including those at high intensity, is based on your unique profile and heart rate zones.

High intensity can be for everyone — regardless of age

In this example, the 30-year-old female’s maximum beats per minute (BPM) is around 190, so she needs to get to at least 152 BPM to be in her high-intensity zone. Meanwhile, a 65-year-old female’s maximum heart rate may be 155 BPM, so she needs to get to at least 124 BPM to be in her high-intensity zone.

Irrespective of age, there are many options for elevating your heart rate suited to your lifestyle and fitness level — don’t let the term ‘high intensity’ scare you! Many people think of ‘typical’ high-intensity activities such as CrossFit or a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) boot camp, but these aren’t the only activities that could be considered high-intensity exercise. For example, walking up a steep incline will definitely get your heart rate up, even if your pace is slower. Other activity ideas include a stationary bicycle, marching on the spot, and getting up and down from a chair. You could also incorporate alternating your pace — doing short bursts of a faster run or steeper incline mixed with moderate or low-intensity walks on flatter surfaces.

The science behind high intensity

Many scientific studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of high-intensity training on cardiorespiratory fitness, typically measured in VO2 max. VO2 max measures how well your body can transport and utilize oxygen during any sustained physical activity. The American Heart Association recommends measuring cardiorespiratory fitness as a clinical vital sign, as it is one of the strongest and reliable predictors of all-cause mortality

High-intensity exercise for those with chronic lifestyle diseases

In a meta-analysis of 10 different studies published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, high-intensity training was compared with moderate-intensity training for individuals with chronic lifestyle diseases. In particular, this analysis focused on cardiovascular risk factors such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. The analysis found that there was an average 9.1% increase in VO2 max levels after high-intensity exercise, which was almost double the increase in cardiorespiratory fitness levels in comparison with moderate-intensity exercise.

High-intensity exercise for an aging demographic

In a recent study by the Cardiac Exercise Research Group at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), high-intensity and moderate-intensity exercise regimes were compared in an older population over 5 years. The 1500+ adults aged 70 to 77 years were randomized into three different groups – high-intensity, moderate-intensity, and the control group which followed the recommended national exercise guidelines. The initial findings of this study show that older adults that were able to keep up a high physical activity level have a much lower risk for premature death than what is expected in this age group. While not statistically significant, this study did show that high-intensity exercise can have a positive effect even on an older demographic.

PAI helps to measure your high-intensity activity and the health benefits

PAI (PersonalActivity Intelligence) is a science-backed health score that measures the heart health impact of physical activity. Each individual is given a weekly PAI Score based on heart rate data from a wearable device and their profile information, guiding them to the right amount of physical activity for a longer, healthier life.

Since it is based on heart rate, PAI can be earned from any activity, regardless of steps. This can include walking, running, resistance training, bicycling, dancing, housework, gardening, going to the gym, doing errands, swimming, and more. The amount of PAI is based on the duration and intensity of the activity.

As the research studies mentioned above, as well as many others, have shown, higher-intensity activities are the most effective way of improving cardiorespiratory health. This is ultimately why PAI is earned at a faster rate from activities done at higher intensities. PAI can be earned at lower-intensity levels as well, giving you credit for any activity that raises your heart rate.

High intensity and PAI — improving long-term health across all demographics

High-intensity activities can sound intimidating, but ultimately, they are what earn PAI the fastest and contribute the most towards long term health. Doing high-intensity activities and earning 100 PAI or more reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease mortality on average by 25%, as well as contributing towards better sleep, less stress, and overall day to day improvements like feeling and looking better. Remember, PAI gives credit for all activity and is customized to you — so even if you’re not doing a traditional HIIT program or running as fast as the person next to you, if you’re getting your heart rate into your personal high-intensity zone, you will be making significant improvements towards your short and long term cardiorespiratory health.

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